Retired General Manvel Grigorian and his wife pleaded not guilty to a string of criminal charges brought against them at the start of their trial in Yerevan on Monday.
“I don’t consider myself guilty,” Grigorian said nearly one year after being arrested following searches conducted at his properties in and around the town of Echmiadzin.
Investigators found there many weapons, ammunition, medication and field rations for soldiers provided by the Armenian Defense Ministry. They also discovered canned food and several vehicles donated by Armenians at one of Grigorian’s mansions. An official video of the searches conducted by the National Security Service (NSS) caused shock and indignation in the country.
Grigorian was also charged with tax evasion and extortion in February. His wife, Nazik Amirian, was indicted on some of these charges but not arrested.
Amirian insisted on Monday that the high-profile case is “fabricated.” She also protested her and her husband’s innocence at the first, preliminary court hearing in the trial held in Grigorian’s absence on May 2.
That hearing focused on defense lawyers’ fresh demands for Grigorian’s release from detention on health grounds. The court rejected them, backing prosecutors’ assertions that the ailing ex-general is receiving adequate treatment in a civilian clinic in Yerevan when he has been kept since February.
Grigorian, who served as deputy defense minister from 2000-2008, told the court that he has suffered from many serious diseases and undergone several surgeries in the last two decades. “There is hardly a doctor in Armenia who hasn’t treated me,” he said.
Grigorian felt unwell during Monday’s court session which was repeatedly interrupted because of that. The 62-year-old required medical aid from doctors present in the courtroom.